‘Rip-off’ telemarketing firm forced to shut up shop

callerA telemarketing company which targeted elderly consumers to flog them health supplements at “astronomical” mark-ups has been wound up in the High Court.

Nutrizen Wellness, based in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, was closed down in the public interest in the High Court of Justice in Manchester before District Judge Richmond. The Official Receiver has been appointed liquidator of the company.

The court heard that Nutrizen Wellness was incorporated in December 2014 and used telemarketing techniques to sell health supplements. According to Companies House, the business has two directors: John Abbotts and John Drewe Abbotts. The latter has held a total of 180 directorships of different companies, most of which have been dissolved.

The Insolvency Service began confidential investigations into the firm when it received complaints that the company was mis-selling health supplements to the elderly.

The court was told that the business had already been investigated once before by Trading Standards. That investigation had resulted in remedial action being required of the company, particularly addressing the overselling of their products and false and misleading claims, among other things.

Insolvency Service investigators found that the firm was purchasing consumer data of individuals aged 65 and over and then cold calling them from third-party call centres in Goa, India.

Health supplements were then sold to these individuals at significant mark-ups. One product, which retails on the high street for £2, was sold by Nutrizen for up to £40.

One 88-year-old customer identified by investigators spent over £700 on supplements in just 19 days. This went against an undertaking the company had agreed with Trading Standards to limit sales to £300 in a single transaction, as two purchases exceeded that amount.

Investigators also uncovered discrepancies with Nutrizen Wellness’s VAT affairs, as the turnover evident in their bank account was £250,000 higher than the amount declared to HMRC. In addition to this, Nutrizen Wellness had transferred 80% of its sales revenues out of the country to the India-based call centres.

Insolvency Service chief investigator Scott Crighton said: “Nutrizen Wellness deliberately and unconscionably targeted the elderly, pushing their products at astronomical levels of mark-up. They also underreported the true level of their income to HMRC, failing to pay the appropriate levels of VAT.

“We are pleased the courts recognise this behaviour is totally unacceptable and have shut down their activities to prevent anyone else falling victim to their practices.”

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